“Sometimes I think we’ve already dreamed everything there is to dream.”
We were waiting in the shade of almond trees. Our friends, intent on wine tasting, invited us to Central California to celebrate their recent engagement. They’d already ordered for us an hour ago in the next town over, but Sarah’s car broke down, and so I imagined our plates were probably attracting flies and opportunistic sparrows. It made me hungrier.
Sarah believed her dreams were visions, an unfolding of the future. As soon as the engine spluttered and bucked, she turned to me. “I’ve had this dream before.” I pulled onto the shoulder, next to a massive almond orchard. Sarah got out and stretched her back.
There was something strange about the way the trees were plotted. They grew out instead of up. It looked like they were stretching to get a peek at us. White blossoms fell when the wind passed through. I couldn’t help but think of moths’ wings whipping through the rows.
Sarah sat down on an old crate and rested her back against one of the trees. Everything she did, she did carefully. Everything she did felt like ceremony, an observance of something greater than ourselves. She smoothed out the folds of her dress.
“I called Mike,” I said. “They’re on their way to pick us up. Are you still hungry?”
She nodded. A flower flickered above her and landed softly in her hair. She didn’t seem to realize, so lost in thought. “Tell me — what’s the worst dream you can remember?”
“I don’t remember many dreams. Sometimes I get them confused with real life. With memories. As I get older I find it difficult to separate the two.”
The flower in Sarah’s hair danced but couldn’t escape.
“What about you?” I asked.
Sarah looked up into the black branches above us. The sun seemed to shrink between the canopies. “Mine aren’t very scary,” she said. “I don’t have too many nightmares. My sister does, though. I remember one she told us when she was still little. She dreamt she was alone in our house, and it looked old and empty, like the rest of us suddenly disappeared, and many years had passed, but she hadn’t aged one bit. She heard noises coming from beyond the windows and when she looked to see if it was us, she saw a pack of wolves instead, wolves with human hands. Can you imagine? Every door she closed on them they opened again. Eventually she fled the house, but they chased her up a tree. This tree was big — she said she climbed for what felt like hours and when her arms got tired she looked down, but the branches grew so close together she couldn’t see the ground. Then she felt the tree sway, back and forth, back and forth. The wolves were rocking it. The force was too much. She fell. But here’s the thing — she never hit a tree branch on the way down. She could see the boughs whipping past her but none touched her. She reached out to grab one but they moved away. None helped to slow her fall.”
Sarah nodded. “Do you wake up before you hit the ground in your dreams?”
“Me too. But she didn’t. She remembers hitting the ground. She remembers being paralyzed, and the wolves came back, and they began to —”
“I get it.”
We heard Mike pull up on the shoulder of the highway next to the orchard. I helped Sarah up from her crate and placed my hand on the small of her back as we walked toward his car. The wind picked up and whirled loudly in my ears. The blossoms fell in sheets so thick I couldn’t see past the pedals. I felt Sarah’s dress move beneath my palm. I felt the fluttering of wings. I think I misstepped, and in my falling, I felt her escape.
— Mason Schoen is a creative writing graduate student.